The Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel in Shenzhen is taking digital support to another level with robots on hand to serve patrons.
The Chinese hotel, which has been open for three months, has drawn global attention for the fact that it is almost entirely staffed by robots.
A robot greets guests upon their arrival and can deliver drinks and snacks to patrons in a communal lounge area.
Naturally, the lounge area is digitally inspired, featuring tablets on each table for automated ordering and PCs for internet surfing or business requirements.
One nights’ stay costs a mere 70 yuan (approximately AU$12), and rooms are the size of a small space capsule, illuminated with blue light.
‘Capsule’ hotels are a form of accommodation that date back to 1979, when the Capsule Hotel In Osaka opened. Since then, a multitude of hotel capsule designs which offer small, affordable spaces with minimalist and often futuristic interiors have cropped up.
While other capsule hotel rooms, such as SLEEPBOX at Moscow airport, offer a bed with linens, desk and luggage space, the Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel focuses on offering purely a bed, a small shelf and a television. All other amenities are communal, including a locker area for valuables and a laundry room for guests to wash clothes.
The hotel highlights two key futuristic trends in the hotel market: digital automation (in the form of robotics) and a connection to outer space.
According to a 2012 Australian research study conducted by Brian Hay, robots in hotels will become more common by 2030 and could even replace humans should there be a labour shortage.
Another study by the International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems envisioned an automatic hotel system to help guests while exploring the characteristics robots should possess in order to be suitable for a hotel environment. They concluded that autonomy, easy reconfiguration, robust perception systems and an orientation that would hold close interaction with humans as essential components.
Back in June, the Yotel New York hotel unveiled a first robot that handles patrons luggage, while last year the IBIS hotel announced the quirky concept of using a robot to collect data from sleeping guests via algorithms on their mattress. The robots would then convert the data to create a painted work of art.
While a night at the Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel is a bargain for guests seeking a visionary trip to outer space, earlier this year, a more sophsitciated space design was revealed in the form of a mixed-use hotel and residential resort in Spain.
The Barcelona Space Hotel was designed by Erik Morvan and American developer Mobilona and aims to provide accommodation designed for people who wish they could travel to far-off galaxies.
While Mobilona still does not have government approval for the project, the company hopes the hotel will boast the world’s first “zero gravity spa,” a wind tunnel in which guests can experience the weightlessness of space, as well as immersive displays that reveal a galactic landscape of rooms and windows.
The company even has plans to launch similar space projects in Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, may be partially responsible for a growing interest in space considering he plans to begin offering "affordable" space travel in 2014 with no astronaut credentials required.
For ambitious space travellers who can't quite afford the $250,000 price tag to get on board a Virgin rocket, however, the new space-age trend in hotels will at least allow them to fantasise about galactic destinations as they are served by robots while immersed in simulated space design.